BCPS continues public input sessions to address high school overcrowding

Baltimore County Public Schools is continuing its series of public input meetings about how to address a shortfall of about 1,700 seats in area high schools projected over the next decade.

The first in a series of three meetings, which stakeholders in any area of the county’s high schools may attend, will take place on July 9 at 7 p.m. in Catonsville High School’s cafeteria.

The feedback process began with a series of focus groups hosted by BCPS in June, during which stakeholders were presented with different school overcrowding strategies and asked their thoughts on each. Data from those focus groups was used to further develop overcrowding strategies, which will be presented at the summer input meetings.

In addition to the Catonsville session, the school system has two others scheduled, one on July 12 at 7 p.m. in the George Washington Carver High School auditorium in Towson and one at 7 p.m. on July 17 at the Dundalk High School cafeteria.

Russell Brown, chief accountability and performance management officer for BCPS, said the forums will be set up like “gallery walks.” Attendees will be asked to circulate the cafeteria to different stations with information related to several overcrowding strategies or scenarios. Brown said information stations will be staffed with at least two people, one to facilitate conversation and one to take notes.

“That way, everybody has a chance to talk, and everybody has a chance to be heard,” Brown said. A question-and-answer session will be held following the gallery walks.

“It’s really important to have a broad representation of community voices in this [process],” Brown said.

Feedback at the summer input meetings will be incorporated into the developing plans for mitigating capacity issues, Brown said.

Based on data provided by the SAGE Policy Group, an independent consulting and economic modeling firm, which made presentations at the June focus groups, 14 schools will be at least a little bit over capacity by 2027, with Catonsville, Perry Hall, Pikesville, Towson and Sparrows Point among the high schools that are projected to be over capacity by 110 percent.

During the earlier input meetings, stakeholders were presented with four potential solutions from SAGE: Building eight new schools at a cost of about $500 million but with no redistricting; building six new schools at a lower cost of about $375 milliuon but with some redistricting; using a combination of magnet school programming, capital improvements and redistricting; or increasing capacity at some schools with some redistricting.

Brown said there would be more than four scenarios presented at the summer input sessions, each withmore detailed information.

Those attending as well as those stakeholders who do not attend will be able to take an online survey to provide further feedback to the school system.

Another round of forums held around the county will be scheduled in September. For more information visit http://www.bcps.org/system/high-school-capacity-study.html.

cboteler@baltsun.com

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